All We Can Be Is Tourists Now

Last month, a video went viral showing a queue of climbers in puffer jackets waiting to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The poster described it as: “A DMV line at altitude for really rich people.”

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For most of humanity’s history, our tallest mountains have been in realms entirely separate from those on earth. In ancient times, gods were believed to reside on these peaks.

On the summit of Mount Everest is said to live Miyolangsangma, the Buddhist goddess of inexhaustible giving. The idea of gods hanging out up there is not absurd, given that it was physically and technically impossible for anyone to reach such summits until recently. Mount Olympus, believed to be the home of Zeus and his family, wasn't summited until 1913 and it wasn't until 1953 that Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the peak of Mount Everest.

The expedition Sir Edmund took part in was the culmination of years of planning and required the efforts of hundreds of porters and staff all to support just 10 climbers. This ancient perception of these peaks as sacred spaces contrasts sharply with today's reality. In 2019, a record-breaking 891 people trampled through Miyolangsangma’s palace, with some days seeing over 200 climbers attempting the summit.

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